Career Tips | HOW TO READ THE ROOM
OBSERVE THE ROOM
This may seem obvious, but you need to go a step further from relying solely on what people say and really look at what is going on. Where are people sitting? Who seems to be enjoying themselves? Who seems tense? Pay close attention to facial expressions and how everyone is carrying themselves. This will give you clues as to how you should proceed.
Work on listening rather than speaking
When we are nervous, we tend to want to blabber to help relieve some of our nerves. However, take frequent pauses, truly take in what another person is saying, and pay attention to nonverbal cues. Be in the moment rather than thinking about your next comment.
Check in with your original thoughts
While it would make our lives much easier if we were right all the time, most of the time we are not. Consistently check in with your observations and evaluate if anything has changed as you gather more information. Make sure you do not fall into the trap of confirmation bias.
BETTER BODY LANGUAGE
Stand up straight
Just like your mother says, it is important to stand up straight. Standing up straight with your shoulders back gives you the appearance that you are in control. Before a meeting, do the Wonder Woman or Superman pose (arms on hips, chest out) has shown to make you feel more confident.
Uncross your arms and legs
Crossed arms and legs tend to signal resistance to one’s ideas. By sitting openly, it shows that you are engaged and open to what the other person has to say. You will seem less closed off and more like an eager learner.
Be an active listener
When another person is talking, make sure you actively pay attention to what they are saying. Make eye contact, nod when appropriate, and even give them small verbal cues to reiterate that you are invested. But don’t just go through the motions, pay attention!
In the wise words of the hyenas from Lion King, one of the key techniques to combat your nerves is to “be prepared!” Whether it is an interview or even just sitting down for coffee with someone in the field, make sure to bring a list of questions and do your background research before attending. You will feel more at peace knowing you have put the time in to put your best foot forward. On the flipside, be careful not to over prepare. While you may want to keep in mind key points that you want to make, you do not want your answers to sound as if you had practiced it to death like your audition monologue for the high school play.
I know, I know, you have heard this one before. However, taking deep breaths before the big moment will help take your mind off your nerves and calm your body. Clench up your whole body and then release to help rid yourself of any other tension that may be contributing to your nerves.
Remember to Have Perspective
Unless you are doing brain surgery, remember that the sun will rise and set tomorrow regardless of how this meeting goes. Remember you are not defined by one meeting on one day. If you missed the mark this time, get up, dust yourself off, and keep going.
Oh, and one last piece of advice, ask for feedback! Even if it is uncomfortable at times, feedback is the most valuable gift you can receive. With each new experience will come a learning lesson, and intentional feedback will help you take these lessons to the next level.
Good luck, you got this!